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DAVE DAVIES, host:

This is FRESH AIR. I'm Dave Davies, filling in for Terry Gross.

An era ends this weekend when the syndicated TV show "At The Movies" airs its last episode. We'll mark its passing today by listening back to interviews with its most celebrated former hosts: Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

Siskel and Ebert were dueling movie reviewers for competing Chicago newspapers, and they began appearing on television together in 1975, starting the show that went national two years later as "Sneak Previews."

In their day, their thumbs were the most sought-after parts of any film critics' anatomies. They had great on-air chemistry, but their personal rivalry was often apparent in their disagreements over films.

Siskel died in 1999, after surgery to remove a brain tumor. Ebert appeared on "At the Movies" until 2006, when cancer surgery made it impossible for him to speak. In comments to Esquire earlier this year, Ebert wrote that he missed Siskel terribly.

But he hasn't stopped working. He still reviews films for the Chicago Sun-Times and writes a blog called "Roger Ebert's Journal," and a new collection of Ebert's reviews, "The Great Movies 3," will be published in the fall.

Terry interviewed Siskel and Ebert in 1996 in Chicago at the Thorne Theater on the campus of Northwestern University. The evening was a benefit for public radio station WBEZ.

TERRY GROSS, host:

I've asked you each to bring a scene from a favorite film or at least a favorite scene. And I'd like to start, Roger, with the film you brought. Maybe you could tell us what the film is and, of course, tell us why, of all the scenes in the world, you chose this one.

Mr. ROGER EBERT (Film Critic): Well, Terry, I had originally picked a different scene. I picked the scene with Orson Welles being discovered by the cat in the doorway in "The Third Man." And then my esteemed colleague here pointed out that that scene doesn't have any dialogue in it and so it probably wouldn't play very well on the radio.

(Soundbite of laughter)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. EBERT: We could have a kind of a United Nations translation: Okay, now Orson Welles is smiling at Joseph Cotten, you know. So I granted Gene his point. It was a pretty good point.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT:

And I thought a little harder, and I thought of my favorite passage of dialogue in the movies, and it's from "Citizen Kane," but I don't want to tell you what it is. It's from "Citizen Kane." It's Mr. Bernstein, who is a person who has been, who began with Charles Foster Kane. He was there before, as he says earlier in this same scene: I was there before the beginning, and now I'm here after the end. And this is the speech that I like so much.

GROSS: Okay, let's watch it.

(Soundbite of film, "Citizen Kane")

(Soundbite of music)

Mr. EVERETT SLOANE (Actor): (as Mr. Bernstein) Who's a busy man, me? I'm chairman of the board. I've got nothing but time. What do you want to know?

Mr. WILLIAM ALLAND (Actor): (as Jerry Thompson) Well, Mr. Bernstein, we thought maybe if we could find out what he meant by that last words, as he was dying.

Mr. SLOANE: (as Bernstein) That Rosebud, huh? Maybe some girl? There were a lot of them back in the early days.

Mr. ALLAND: (as Thompson) It's hardly likely, Mr. Bernstein, that Mr. Kane could have met some girl casually, and then 50 years later on this death bed remember.

Mr. SLOANE: (as Bernstein) Well, you're pretty young, Mr. Thompson. A fellow would remember a lot of things you wouldn't think he'd remember. You take me. One day back in 1896, I was crossing over to Jersey on the ferry, and as we pulled out, there was another ferry pulling in. And on it, there was a girl waiting to get off. A white dress she had on. She was carrying a white parasol. I only saw her for one second. She didn't see me at all. But I'll bet a month hasn't gone by since that I haven't thought of that girl.

(Soundbite of applause)

GROSS: Now tell us more about what thrills you about the dialogue in that.

Mr. EBERT: Well, I saw the movie for the first time in 1958, and there hasn't been a month go by since then...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: ...that I haven't thought about that dialogue because in one little speech in a popular Hollywood film written by Herman Mankiewicz, you have the mystery of memory and of longing and of the fact that we are all, to some degree, alone and trying to reach out to somebody else.

And then you have time. You're a young man, Mr. Thompson, he says. And the more I think about that, if you the more you think about that speech, the more it's about the human condition. It's about the whole thing.

GROSS: Do you find that your reaction to that scene or to the film in general changes as you get older? When you first saw it in 1958, you were, what, a teenager or child?

Mr. EBERT: Yeah, I was a teenager.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: Child, come to think of it.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: Very precocious. I go to the University of Colorado every year in order to do a film a shot at a time. We spend 10 hours going with a stop-action projector or laser disk through an entire film.

And every 10 years, I do "La Dolce Vita." I'm due to do it again. And what I said the last time was when I saw this movie in 1962, the first time, it represented everything that I dreamed would happen to me. When I saw it the second time in 1972, it represented everything I was stuck in.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: When I did it at Colorado again in 1982, it represented everything I had escaped from. And the next time I do it, it'll represent a pretty good movie that I remember from my youth.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: But the thing is, the movie has not changed. It's a time capsule. And as you see it, it evokes all of those feelings from all those different earlier viewings because the movie is the same. The emotions that we bring to it are different. And if it's a good movie, because bad movies aren't worth seeing more than once, if once, but good movies are worth seeing over and over again because like good music or a good book, they read differently every time.

GROSS: Gene, what scene did you bring with you?

Mr. GENE SISKEL (Film Critic): Well, I was sitting in the screening room, having made my wise remark, and I liked his selection very much. And then I got inspired. I thought well, you know, rather than try and come up with a famous scene from a famous movie, I'm going to pick a scene that's about his scene.

It's, you know, a very literate script, which is of a current film, a '90s film, and it's about doing not what Mr. Bernstein did, which is not encountering this woman, but about encountering a woman. It is, if you will, an expanded version into an alternative way of living, of what it could have been like for Mr. Bernstein if he had been an activist.

It also is, without question, one of the greatest pick-up scenes in the history of American film. It also is utilitarian. I am giving you a scene tonight. If you're in the sound of my voice or this afternoon, whenever this plays you will be able to use this. You will meet men and women using this line.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Nothing else that will transpire in this interview will be as valuable as what you're about to hear.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Here we go, from Richard Linklater's "Before Sunrise."

(Soundbite of film, "Before Sunrise")

Mr. ETHAN HAWKE (Actor): (as Jesse) All right, I have an admittedly insane idea. But I don't ask you this, it's just, you know, it's going to haunt me the rest of my life.

Ms. JULIE DELPY (Actor): (as Celine) What?

Mr. HAWKE: (as Jesse) I want to keep talking to you, you know. I have no idea what your situation is, but I feel like we have some kind of connection, right?

Ms. DELPY: (as Celine) Yeah, me too.

Mr. HAWKE: (as Jesse) Yeah, right. Well, great. So, listen, here's the deal. This is what we should do. You should get off the train with me here in Vienna, and come check out the town.

Ms. DELPY: (as Celine) What?

Mr. HAWKE: (as Jesse) Come on, it'll be fun. Come on.

Ms. DELPY: (as Celine) What would we do?

Mr. HAWKE: (as Jesse) I don't know. All I know is I have to catch an Austrian Airlines flight tomorrow morning at 9:30, and I don't really have enough money for a hotel. So I was just going to walk around. And it would be a lot more fun if you came with me. And if I turn out to be some kind of psycho, you know, you just get on the next train.

All right, all right, think of it like this. Jump ahead 10, 20 years, okay? And you're married. Only your marriage doesn't have that same energy that it used to have. You know, you start to blame your husband. You start to think about all those guys you've met in your life and what might have happened if you picked up with one of them, right? Well, I'm one of those guys. That's me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. HAWKE: (as Jesse) So think of this as time travel from then to now to find out what you're missing out on. See, what this really could be is a gigantic favor to both you and your future husband to find out that you're not missing out on anything. I'm just as big a loser as he is, totally unmotivated, totally boring, and you made the right choice, and you're really happy.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Ms. DELPY: (as Celine) Let me get my bag.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. EBERT: That's what Mr. Bernstein should have said to that lady with the white parasol.

Mr. SISKEL: Isn't that fabulous? I mean, it'll work, I guarantee you. This should be shown in every sales seminar in the world.

GROSS: Okay, but here's the thing. You were offering this scene somewhat tongue-in-cheek.

Mr. SISKEL: I'm not offering it tongue-in-cheek at all.

GROSS: But have you...

Mr. SISKEL: I love the movie. That's fully scripted. It's beautifully done. I mean, obviously the gestures that he's making that you listeners couldn't hear were wonderful acting choices. You know, he's doing with two thumbs up, oddly enough, or sideways.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Come on over. Come on out. Come on out. Take that chance.

GROSS: But have you ever in your life really tried to do something because you saw it in a film?

Mr. SISKEL: Yes.

GROSS: Tried to change yourself in some way to become another person or to speak in a certain way, look a certain way because you...

Mr. SISKEL: You never saw "Super Fly"?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, speaking with Terry Gross in 1996 in the Thorne Theater at Northwestern University. We'll hear more of that interview after a break. This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This weekend marks the end of the syndicated TV show "At the Movies." And we're listening to Terry's 1996 interview with former hosts Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel, recorded at the Thorne Theater on the campus of Northwestern University.

GROSS: I'd like to go through some firsts, like do a little, like, film biography of each of you. So let's move through these quickly. The first film you actually remember seeing in a movie theater.

Mr. SISKEL: Well, it would probably a Disney picture. And the one that stands out for me for the emotional impact was "Dumbo," specifically the sequence where Mrs. Jumbo is chained up. It's a beautiful sequence. The laughter is misplaced.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: It's a laughter on the title, but it's one of the most beautiful, powerful sequences in the movies, and that is of course when Mrs. Jumbo is we're talking about separation between child and mother.

And the she sings. She later will sing with her trunk woven in through the bars, one of the most beautiful lullabies, "Baby Mine." And clearly, every child fears, and the Disney animated features always play on it, parental loss. And that was a very powerful thing for me growing up.

GROSS: Roger, your first film you remember seeing in a movie.

Mr. EBERT: My father took me to see the Marx Brothers in "A Day at the Races." He loved the Marx Brothers. He had seen the Marx Brothers on stage in Champagne-Urbana when he was a young man in vaudeville.

GROSS: Was it funny to you?

Mr. EBERT: No, to me the scene that I liked the very best, I was really scared when Groucho got on the horse. I was afraid he would fall off and get hurt. But the scene I remember the best is Harpo looking at me while he played the harp. He was looking straight out of the screen. He nodded at the camera. And I thought he saw me, and he was saying, look, I'm playing the harp. And I didn't know what a harp was. I'd never seen one before. And I was entranced.

GROSS: The movie that most scared you as a child that you...

Mr. SISKEL: I think I answered that question. Particularly, I will say when Timothy J.(ph), when Dumbo's up there, and, you know, can he fly or not? Now here, you're talking about a childhood fantasy. I mean, obviously it's a fantasy for everyone to fly, but unassisted but he could die, and certainly he could be humiliated. And again, this is a thing that a child would relate to.

Mr. EBERT: Gene was thinking: Some day, I want to work with a guy like Dumbo.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: Roger, the...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Too obvious.

(Soundbite of laughter)

GROSS: The film that first really scared you.

Mr. SISKEL: Twentieth anniversary, what the hell. You know, let it go.

Mr. EBERT: When I was 10, I saw "The Thing," the Howard Hawks picture. It scared me cold. I was terrified during the movie and for days afterwards but...

GROSS: Because of the way they burn the thing and set it on fire?

Mr. EBERT: Oh, the way he melted, and you could see that he was still alive.

GROSS: What do you do with the vegetable? You cook it?

Mr. EBERT: The moment when they form hands in a circle in the ice, and then you get the overhead shot, and you see that there's a ship underneath the ice. Everything in that movie terrified me.

You know, among modern pictures, the first "Halloween" was a very scary picture.

Mr. SISKEL: Very.

Mr. EBERT: Gene saw it at the Village Theater when he was living two blocks away, and he took a cab home.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Absolutely true, absolutely true. (Unintelligible), I was living at 1400 North State, a little more than two blocks, but about four, and I will tell you I took a taxi home. And when I got in, and we've all done this after scary movies, I hope, I went to the shower and pulled the curtain back.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: Absolutely true.

Mr. EBERT: And believe me, there was nobody in the shower.

Mr. SISKEL: I was about 30 at the time. That sounds normal, doesn't it?

Mr. EBERT: Knowing the kind of housekeeper you were, it was probably a frightening sight in that shower anyway.

Mr. SISKEL: That was scary.

GROSS: The first movie you reviewed.

Mr. EBERT: "The Last Wave." It was a French film.

GROSS: I thought it was an Australian film. Oh, this is a different one.

Mr. EBERT: No, no, that's a different "Last Wave." And I remember "The Last Wave." That the Aborigines. No, this was 1967, and my review was: Ah, yes, here it is, the French New Wave rolling ashore once again. You see, my first review, and I was already blase.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: My first review was Walt Disney's "Rascal."

GROSS: Boy, a real Disney thing here.

Mr. SISKEL: Starring Billy Mumy. He was the child actor in "Lost in Space." It was about a pet raccoon. And I really had to deal with the issue very quickly of hating that picture and being bold enough to say, off the gun, you're sort of knocking mom and apple pie. And I went right at it.

GROSS: Was that hard the first...

Mr. SISKEL: That was in late August, I think it was August 29, 1969.

GROSS: Now, your first review was a negative review. Roger, was it hard the first time you wrote a negative review?

Mr. EBERT: No.

GROSS: You didn't think: I'm hurting people's career, people worked really hard on this movie, they're probably decent human beings, this represents...

Mr. SISKEL: I had that test come up.

GROSS: ...this is a heartfelt effort even though the product isn't very good?

Mr. EBERT: You have to realize you're not writing for the filmmakers. You're writing for the potential film audience. And I would much rather hurt somebody's feelings who made the picture than send somebody to see a movie and spend two hours of their life seeing a movie that I don't think is worth seeing.

Mr. SISKEL: The first taste where I had it really tough, where I knew I was, you know, forget the constituency for "Rascal" and raccoons. I saw "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" in the fall of '69, and I didn't like it. I didn't hate. I just didn't like it, thought it was a little contrived.

And I wrote my review and, of course, back then we wrote on typewritten pieces of paper. And I left the copy on my desk, and someone who worked as an editorial assistant, an older woman at the Tribune, came by and saw that. And I guess she had either seen a preview, maybe, you know, because sometimes journalists are invited en masse to screenings or somehow she knew something about this picture. Certainly she knew the stars. And she said: You didn't like that?

And I thought, oh boy. Well, I had the luxury, it was I guess an advance, and I had the luxury to go back and see the picture again, which I did. There was another preview.

And I saw it, and I still didn't like it, and I left the review as it was. I probably, you know, re-edited a little bit and tightened it up. But there I knew I was again at the crucible, which was: Is it going to be me wanting to be liked? Or is it me reflecting who I am and what I think?

It applies in interviewing, too. The danger in interviewing, and the danger is wanting to be liked, if in particular you're well-known. And we, again minor celebrities, but there's still, it's important to us, and we have to let that go. We have to be willing to be hated, if it comes to that, because you know what? They don't really like us, and they don't really hate us, it's the box office, the box office.

GROSS: Now, you had an experience where you went back the second time, and you disliked it the second time as much as you did the first time.

Mr. SISKEL: Yes.

GROSS: Has the opposite happened, where maybe a day after, a month after, 10 years after you wrote a review, you went back and had a completely different reaction to it?

Mr. SISKEL: Of course.

Mr. EBERT: Well, a lot of movies, the review is basically, we see the movie once, and we write the review before the movie opens. And the review is the response to having seen the film once. Some movies, even good movies, should only be seen once.

Or at least at long intervals because they're not for example "Jaws." Great movie, you see it once, you know when the shark is going to jump, right? It plays differently when you know when the shark is going to jump. You know, as anybody knows who had to sit through an audience with a helpful-type person behind them, well, the shark is about to bite. You know, thank you.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Thank you, thank you very much, save my money. And oftentimes, when you go back here's the thing that happens to me. I will see a bad movie or what I think is a bad movie. And now I've been a film critic long enough.

When I reviewed "Bonnie & Clyde," "Bonnie & Clyde" is now older than "Casablanca" was when I reviewed "Bonnie & Clyde." So I've been a movie critic since 1967. I will go back now and see a movie that wasn't very good then and isn't very good now but has become more interesting in the intervening 20 or 25 years simply because of the time that has passed.

It is not a time capsule. It has intrinsically interesting information in it that I couldn't see at the time because when I saw it, it was now.

GROSS: Right.

Some of the early motorcycle pictures like "Hell's Angels on Wheels," for example, worth seeing now because it encapsulates an attitude of the late '60s.

I read an article today that really brought that back. Jane Fonda, now there's Spy magazine, they had great moments in Oscar history. Jane Fonda was being interviewed by a room full of journalists in her home the year that she in 1969, she was nominated for an Academy Award.

And she pulled out a joint and said: You mind if I turn on? And all of the journalists said oh, no, go right ahead. And then she was puffing her marijuana cigarette, and her dad came home, and she ran around the room waving her arms.

(Soundbite of laughter)

This made it into a Rex Reed interview. And I thought, you know, I can remember the same year, I was interviewing Robert Mitchum, and he was smoking marijuana. At the time in '69. If it happened now, it would be astonishing, but the late '60s were a particular season in our lives, and so movies can get better even though they aren't any better, simply because they evoke associations that we didn't see the first time around.

DAVIES: Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel, speaking with Terry Gross at Northwestern University in Chicago in 1996. "At the Movies," the syndicated TV program, which was first hosted by Siskel and Ebert, will have its last broadcast this weekend. We'll hear more of their interview in the second half of the show. I'm Dave Davies, and this is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

This is FRESH AIR. Im Dave Davies, in for Terry Gross.

This weekend the syndicated TV show "At the Movies" airs its final episode, and we're marking its passing by listening to Terry's 1996 interview with former host Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel.

Before we return to that interview, though, we're going to take a short detour and hear about the film both Siskel and Ebert agreed was the best film of the 1980s, "Raging Bull," directed by Martin Scorsese. Roger Ebert interviewed Scorsese at the Wexner Center for the Arts on the campus of Ohio State University in 1997, when Scorsese received the American Film Institute's Life Achievement Award and the Wexner Prize for Originality in the Arts.

Mr. EBERT: "Raging Bull" came out in '80 and it is a great film. It is a film that will live as long as films are seen.

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. MARTIN SCORSESE (Film Director): Thank you. Thank you.

Mr. EBERT: What I feel so strongly in talking to people about movies, frequently people will - they know I'm a movie critic - they will discuss the subject matter as if that is what the film is about. Oh, it's a film about boxing.

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah, I know. Right.

Mr. EBERT: Or, oh, its a film about gangsters.

Mr. SCORSESE: Right. Right.

Mr. EBERT: Or whatever. You know, like when they hear what "Breaking Away" is about. Oh, I dont know if I want to see it. A film is not about its subject. It's about how its about its subject.

Mr. SCORSESE: Right. In fact, when a...

Mr. EBERT: A subject is neutral. People dont understand that. When people say, whenever anybody makes a statement, I dont like to go to movies about and then fill in the blank...

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah. Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: ...my response is, anyone who makes that statement is an idiot.

Mr. SCORSESE: No, its true.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

Mr. SCORSESE: It's true. It's true.

Mr. EBERT: I dont want to go to bad films about cowboys.

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: I dont want to go to bad films about boxers.

Mr. SCORSESE: I know.

Mr. EBERT: I would like to see a good film about a boxer. It might be more intelligent to say that.

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah. I mean when Bob gave me the book originally, back in 1974, I never saw a fight I never saw a fight. My father was a big fight fan. But I never, I didnt know anything about boxing and I wasnt interested in films about boxing, you know. But it took those years to - for me to go my own way, to come back to understanding really what it was about.

Mr. EBERT: It was about a boxer but it wasnt about boxing.

Mr. SCORSESE: Right.

Mr. EBERT: It was about the boxer.

Mr. SCORSESE: It was about a man. Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: Could you set this up just a little bit by talking about two things? Number one, what people dont always - they observe viscerally but not necessarily intellectually - how much technique went into the boxing sequences, in terms of slow motion and lenses...

Mr. SCORSESE: What happened with the boxing sequences, once I saw De Niro perform the nine fights - they had - Jake LaMotta and Jimmy Nickerson worked out blocking for nine fight scenes. And he showed them to me in Gleason's Gym on 14th Street, and I sat there, I was stunned. In fact, he came over to me. He says, are you watching? Because I'm killing myself. I said, yeah, I am.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCORSESE: And I realized, I said, oh boy, I said - because he didnt know. He thought (unintelligible) I was like hanging around not watching. I'm watching, I'm watching, I realized you can't shoot this. You can't shoot this from my angle. I said we have to be in there with him and its got to be "The Wild Bunch." It's got to be - every punch has to be worked out in such a way, well, let's say not every punch, but you have to do it like music. You have to do it like I did some of the musical sequences in "New York, New York," where three bars of music was one shot, literally. Not four cameras and then you cut it together in the editing room. That's selecting, not directing. It's a different thing, you know?

But directing is, you know, these four punches, one, two, three, four, camera tracks from left to right, swings around, over the shoulder of the guy who is getting hit, and we see a close-up of LaMotta hitting him. And it's got to be a arc, shoom, like this, and as fast as the punches. Then do it - then on the set we realized, in certain cases we realized, in certain cases we began to understand that we couldnt even see the punches, they were so fast; we had to go higher speed, 36, 48, 96, that sort of thing, just to see them. And this you see all the speeds. But what, primarily, what happened was that I drew up every shot for each fight scene; there are nine fight scenes in the film. One I didnt draw up the shots. I think it was the second Sugar Ray fight. But I decided I was doing it with second lenses and we put a bar of fire in front of a lens - so the heat ripples.

And the most important thing was that the camera never, as much as possible, never goes outside the ring - that youre always in the ring with him. Your sensibility is taken on by - his vision becomes your sensibility. In other words, what he perceives in the ring, sometimes I open the ring up. We had a ring that I built special where I made it longer and sometimes wider and it was like, it was like being - imagine being punched in the head, what you hear and what you perceive. You don't know where you are.

Mr. EBERT: On the soundtrack, you used breaking glass...

Mr. SCORSESE: Breaking glass...

Mr. EBERT: And animal noises.

Mr. SCORSESE: Animal noises and that sort of thing. Frank Warner did that. He wouldnt tell us after a while what he was using. He said, I'm not going to tell anybody, you know. Whatever it is, it's great - it's, you know, that sort of thing.

Pulling out the sound, putting in the sound, all - we even changed speeds during a shot, which now you can do very easily with a button, but then you had to actually do with a non-blimped Arri, and you had to change the motor and also the left stop with two assistants, that sort of thing. But many of them, what I am saying, it was all designed, and they were all designed, shot A, B, C, D, one, two, three, four, five, and they all were cut together. And some of the cutting on the fight scenes were the easiest to do because it was all laid out. But it did take, we had planned five and a half weeks of shooting for it, it did take 10 weeks. And it was very specific. And De Niro would have on the side of the camera a very big punching bag, one of those cylinder ones, it looks like a cylinder, and he - when we were ready to yell, when we're ready to go for a roll, we'd have the slate ready, you know, and start rolling and you'd hear off camera, he's punching the bag, punching the bag, and then he'd jump into frame sweating, you know, and then the slate.

Mr. EBERT: Mm-hmm.

Mr. SCORSESE: So he came in already heated, bang, ready to go. It wasnt like, you know, we're wasting any footage. But the physical stamina it took him to sustain 10 weeks of that was amazing - and because he believed in the shots I wanted to get. But what you see here is the final, the final battle in a way, and the punishment he takes, especially the montage, when he gets beaten up by Sugar Ray, is based in a way - the drawings I made were based on the shower scene from "Psycho."

And I shot in that way with 39 shots, and it took 10 days just to shoot those shots, because there were applications and all kinds of makeup problems, and just to get the angle right it was like 10 days. And there's even a shot in there Sam Fuller told me about - he said put the camera in the lens - put the lens in somebody's hands and just swing this way like...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCORSESE: You'll see. We even put the camera on the boxing glove and the glove is in the foreground; it comes flying at him this way. It's all in there for maybe like five frames, six frames, you know.

Mr. EBERT: Let's look.

Mr. SCORSESE: Okay.

(Soundbite of movie, "Raging Bull")

(Soundbite of punches)

Unidentified Man (Ring Announcer): He has LaMotta on (unintelligible) holding on. Well, certainly that was one of the most damaging evidences of punching that you have seen in recent years.

Mr. ROBERT DE NIRO (Actor): (as Jake LaMotta) Come on. Come on. Come on.

(Soundbite of crowd booing)

Mr. DE NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) Come on. Come on. Come on. What are you staring for? Coming on.

Unidentified Man: Robinson, apparently tired, punched there fairly well, and rocked Jake LaMotta (unintelligible)...

Mr. DE NIRO: (as Jake LaMotta) Come on. Come on, Ray. Come on. Come on, Ray.

(Soundbite of punches and cameras clicking)

(Soundbite of applause)

Mr. SCORSESE: Thank you. Thank you. One thing I forgot to say before it started was that the announcer's voice, that's the actual announcer of the actual fight. The phrases he used, and it was hard to his voice out through the stereo and that sort of thing. It's hard to hear sometimes. But the lines he uses is amazing. No man can take this punishment. That's all real. That's actually as it as happening, you know.

Mr. EBERT: Obviously the film is in black and white.

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: It came at a time when you were involved in a battle with Eastman over the fading color stock.

Mr. SCORSESE: Color. Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: But apart from that, didnt you believe that this film had to be in black and white?

Mr. SCORSESE: Yeah. I believed that because an old friend of mine, Gene Kirk, would walk by my office, say, Remember "Sweet Smell of Success." That's a great film by Alexander Mackendrick with Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, really sort of based on Walter Winchell, and it had extraordinary black and white photography of New York and that world, really, James Wong Howe photography, in 1950-something, '55, I think, '56, '57. Anyway, I thought of that and I also knew that there were four or five other boxing films coming out that year. There was the "The Main Event," with Barbara Streisand and...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCORSESE: Well, a comedy...

Mr. EBERT: Jon Voight?

Mr. SCORSESE: No, it was Jon Voight. It was...

Mr. EBERT: Jackie...

Mr. SCORSESE: Ryan O'Neal.

Mr. EBERT: Ryan O'Neal.

Mr. SCORSESE: And there was "Rocky II" or "Rocky III," I think, and there was a couple of others, and there was even "Matilda, The Boxing Kangaroo" in color.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SCORSESE: Think of it, I said. Ours is the only one in black and white. It's got to be different, you know?

(Soundbite of laughter)

DAVIES: Martin Scorsese, speaking with Roger Ebert in 1997.

Our thanks to the Wexner Center for the Arts at Ohio State University, where their conversation was recorded.

We'll hear the conclusion of Terry's interview with Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel after a break.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVIES: This weekend marks the end of the syndicated TV show "At the Movies," and we're listening to Terry's 1996 interview with former hosts Roger Ebert and the late Gene Siskel, recorded at the Thorne Theater on the campus of Northwestern University.

TERRY GROSS: You both have done profiles of actors in addition to reviewing movies. You write feature stories. My experience is that sometimes actors are very temperamental, and that if youre not asking them questions that will help them promote their film, if you go what publicists like to call off-topic, that theyll sometimes get very temperamental and even walk out.

Mr. EBERT: It didnt use to be that way. I mean the key word in your observation is publicist. When I started, you kind of hung out with the stars. I mean Gene and I remember a day when John Wayne came to town...

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. EBERT: ...to see his friend Step'n Fetchit, who was dying in University of Chicago Hospital. And he called up the movie critics and said, come on over here to the Conrad Hilton and we'll drink some tequila and talk.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: And we, the four movie critics at that time, turned up, you know, with our tongues hanging out, delighted to just sit around and talk with the Duke for a while. Well, these days, of course, with spin control, you'd have somebody feeding him his soundbites, you know. And I've done many interviews in the past where you really got to spend time with a person in an unstructured environment, maybe in an environment where they didnt always look their best. As, for example, the day I spent with Lee Marvin, when he was dead drunk. And, yet it was a very good story. He liked it. He talked to me again many times later in his career. He thought it was a good story about that day.

These days the publicists only want to present the soundbite opportunity, and the sad thing is the lessons theyve learned in promoting movies are now being used in promoting politicians and we are getting the same spin control on politicians that we get on movie stars.

GROSS: Did you have any publicists from Lee Marvin's movie call you up and say, please dont mention that he was drunk, please dont quote certain things that he's saying...

Mr. EBERT: Please dont mention that the dog came out of his bedroom with a pair of panties in his mouth...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: ...and his girlfriend said, whose are those panties? And Lee Marvin said, Michelle, those are your panties. And she said, those are not my panties. And Marvin said, bad dog.

(Soundbite of laughter and applause)

GROSS: Did anyone ask you not to quote that?

Mr. EBERT: That's right in the story, it's in there.

GROSS: Any repercussions?

Mr. EBERT: The publicist was there the whole time; he was going out to get more beer.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: I got out of the interviewing business because of the influence of publicists, to a degree, to a large degree. I was doing them all the time and enjoyed it tremendously. About six years ago - I'm guessing, it's about six years ago, a film called "Postcards from the Edge," by Mike Nichols, came out, Meryl Streep, Shirley MacLaine. And Mike Nichols and I are - there's a group of journalists, I had private the time because of my larger circulation, I guess, of my newspaper.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: And television, of course. So I sat with the other journalists who had to sit at a group, and I just sat at the table listening. When I do that, what I'm really doing is listening to the questions so I know which one would give boring answers and I dont ask and waste my time. Mike Nichols turns to me and says - oh, there was a lull. I said may I ask a question to my colleagues, because they had limited time. Go right ahead. I said: What did you mean by the last shot in "Working Girl"? Which is a big pullback. I thought it was a great shot, a pullback from the office building. And he said, you know, one of many stories, that kind of thing. Okay. He said: What did you think of the last shot in this picture?

Now he's crossing the line because I haven't reviewed the film. It's okay. And I said: Well, I normally dont discuss - I said, but Ill be happy to. I didnt like it. I thought - I said you summed up everything with a song, you remember Meryl Streep sings the song and everything's hunky dory and, you know, this is an addiction film, and she's even got the relationship going on with Hackman and all that. And I said it just doesnt work that way. And, fine.

Now, he leaves, and I explain to the other journalists, I said, well, you know, I want you to know, I actually liked the picture; it's just that I didnt like the ending. So if you see me give a positive review - I'm trying to protect myself now - please know that it wasnt that my mind changed, but he asked me about one scene and I told him about one scene and end. The next day, interviews are cancelled, and they're too busy, and including the interview...

Mr. EBERT: Your interview?

Mr. SISKEL: My interviews with Nichols, Streep, not MacLaine. So I go to Shirley MacLaine and I am steamed. I'm steamed because, come on, this is juvenile. He asked the question. I didnt go around picking on him.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. SISKEL: And I would end up writing him a letter explaining this - I got everything in my life from writing letters. And I said - he turned around and he did do an interview with me. And I'll tell you what he said, because it involves Roger too. What Mike Nichols said was, he said you guys, he says, I said why are you making such a big deal about me? You know, I mean, you know, and he says well, because you can actually affect - this comes back to your other question - he says you can actually affect the box office.

GROSS: Well, I bet youve learned interesting things about what it means to be a celebrity in America, through the own recognition youve achieved as film critics.

Mr. EBERT: A long time ago I interviewed Michael Caine. He came to America to make a movie called "Hurry Sundown" with Otto Preminger, after having become a success in "Alfie" and "The Ipcress File." And I said, what does it feel like to be a movie star? And he said, you can't go into a dirty bookstore anymore.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: He said I tried it. He says in England we dont have the kind of pornography you have over here, but I'd heard about the stores in Times Square. And so I looked in through the window of one of them; I was curious. You remember, Michael Caine at this time was in his 20s, young man, first trip to America.

GROSS: Yeah.

Mr. EBERT: I looked in through the window of my trained actor's eye - I wish I could do his Cockney accent. With my trained actor's eye, I quickly realized that there was no eye contact in a porno store. Everybody looks as tunnel vision, nobody looks at anybody else, and I realized, he says, this is a way... An actor would notice this. And I congratulated myself, I said Michael, you can walk right in there because nobody will look at you, so I walked right in. He said unfortunately, there was a gent on an elevated stool with a microphone whose job it was to say, okay gents, this isn't the library, make your purchases.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: And he got on his microphone and said, look who we have on the rubber wear section, Michael Caine.

(Soundbite of applause) (Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: And to a degree, that's, when he told me that, I was not on television. I didnt realize that's what happens. You can't flip the bird to anybody in traffic. You always have to be nice to people on the elevator, because they know who you are and they're going to tell everyone.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: Everyone - if you were not nice. And whatever you do it's going to get back to you or...

Mr. SISKEL: Enlarged.

Mr. EBERT: Enlarged. Yeah.

GROSS: Now has that affected the way you interview movie stars, because youve experienced, to some extent...

Mr. EBERT: Well, I'll tell you what has affected me more, and I've thought about that, because the first big star I interviewed was John Wayne and I was completely intimidated.

GROSS: Mm-hmm.

Mr. EBERT: It was during the filming of the "The Green Berets" and there was an overhead shot that was being setup, so nobody out of uniform could be visible on this airfield. So they told him on a walkie-talkie, that the interviewer was there, and he came walking in full battle fatigues with a helmet and a rifle and side arm and a radio and a canteen and grenades and a backpack and boots and knives and, you know, bayonets...

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: ...walking toward me for about a quarter of a mile.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: And I couldnt move; I had to wait in the shade. He got up to me, he stuck out a hand and he said, John Wayne. And I said, I know.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. EBERT: And later, as I began to interview people of comparable stature, who were younger, such as Robert De Niro or Meryl Streep, I realized a funny thing: for all of us, movie stars are the people who were stars when we were growing up. Either your age or younger, they're just people.

DAVIES: Roger Ebert and Gene Siskel interviewed on stage in Chicago in 1996 at a benefit for the Chicago Public Radio station WBEZ.

"At the Movies," the syndicated TV show which they started, will have its last broadcast this weekend. Roger Ebert continues to write reviews for the Chicago Sun Times and has a new collection of film reviews coming out in the fall. Gene Siskel died in 1999 after surgery to remove a brain tumor.

Our thanks to the staff at WBEZ for recording this event.

Coming up, Arcade Fire. Ken Tucker has a review.

This is FRESH AIR.

(Soundbite of music)

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